Abstract. Evolutionary forces can lead to the formation of interdependence between anatomic components within an organism, between individuals in social populations, and between species in ecological settings. The structure of interdependence can take a wide variety forms depending on the relative strengths of neutral drift and selection, but in all cases, will make the system vulnerable to catastrophic failures. In this talk I will discuss various physical and phenomenological evolutionary models of biological interdependence, and will outline when and how biological and ecological structures can be expected to fail.
Since different structures fail in different ways, failure can also be used as a microscope that informs us the local and global properties of an interdependence structure. In the last part of my talk, I will briefly address the inverse problem of inferring the topology of interdependence networks from the failure times of components.